Symptoms usually build. Often patients don’t know they are suffering from adrenal insufficiency until symptoms worsen to a noticeable degree. The most common symptoms of AI are:
• Muscle weakness.
• Decreased appetite.
• Weight loss.
• Nausea and vomiting.
• Muscle and joint pain.
• Low blood pressure.
• Symptoms of low blood sugar, such as sweating.
• Irregular menstrual periods.
There are different conditions related to your adrenal glands. Some of the most common include:
• Addison’s disease: Also called adrenal insufficiency. In this disorder, you don’t produce enough cortisol and/or aldosterone.
• Cushing’s syndrome: In this disorder, your levels of cortisol are too high. This term can be applied when large doses of steroids are given to treat certain medical conditions.
• Congenital adrenal hyperplasia: This term refers to a genetic condition in which your adrenal glands are not able to make cortisol well. As a result, ACTH is elevated. Depending on the defect higher levels of male hormone might be made.
• Adrenal gland suppression: This is a type of adrenal insufficiency that is related to outside sources of cortisol or related synthetic hormones such as prednisone or dexamethasone.
• Hyperaldosteronism: If you have this condition, your body produces too much aldosterone which can lead to blood pressure elevation and potassium loss.
• Virilization: This condition happens when your body produces too much of the male sex hormones and is only apparent in females or boys before puberty.
There are also conditions of the adrenal glands related to growths (tumors). These include:
• Adrenal gland tumors: Tumors can disrupt hormone output, but are usually non cancerous.
• Adrenocortical carcinoma: This rare condition refers to cancer forming in the adrenal gland’s outer layer.
• Pheochromocytoma: If you have this condition, your glands make too much epinephrine and norepinephrine which can raise blood pressure or make your heart race.
• Pituitary tumors: Abnormal growth on the pituitary gland can cause adrenal gland conditions by disrupting the number of hormones made by the adrenal glands. ACTH producing tumors cause Cushing’s disease. If tumors are large enough, they may press on the normal pituitary cells and cause deficiency of ACTH and secondary adrenal insufficiency.
At Atlantic Endocrinology & Diabetes Center your doctor will likely start by asking questions about your symptoms. They will then order tests to determine the levels of hormones in your saliva, blood and urine.
If your doctor suspects tumors they might order imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs or nuclear imaging tests.
Treatment of Pituitary Adrenal Disease disorders depend on the disorder itself. Some conditions will require medications to add to hormone levels. Your specialist at Atlantic Endocrinology & Diabetes Center may suggest surgery or radiation for disorders that involve tumors.
The adrenal glands play an important part in keeping your body healthy. Disorders of these glands can affect many body functions. Your endocrinologist will regularly monitor your condition. Your treatment plan might change when your situation changes, such as when you are in a high-stress time during an illness or surgery. Most of the adrenal disorders are manageable when you are seen by an endocrinologist in our team.